Seachange transforms Auckland gallery TeTuhi into 'A Platform for Contemporary Art'
Since beginning in 1969 as the Pakuranga Arts Society, TeTuhi has developed into one of New Zealand’s foremost contemporary art spaces and a leading supporter of experimental practices. Its name is derived from Manawatere, an ancestral explorer of the local Māori tribe Ngāi Tai, who signalled his arrival in New Zealand by making his ‘tuhi’, or mark, on a pōhutukawa tree. Two trees, both grafted from a large pōhutukawa tree called ‘Te Tuhi a Manawatere’ that lives nearby at Cockle Bay, flank the art space’s main entrance.
TeTuhi is based on the outskirts of Auckland but exists on an international scale, with regular contributions to the world-renowned Venice Biennale just the tip of the iceberg. Despite their global scale and decade-spanning dedication to local artists, they’ve remarkably flown under the radar due to an incohesive brand and low public awareness. To solve the problem, they commissioned Auckland-based design studio Seachange to devise a timeless visual identity system.
Seachange began by positioning TeTuhi as ‘A Platform for Contemporary Art’ to communicate better their primary role of supporting experimental practice. This mantra flows subtly into the logotype, which sees the two ‘T’s of TeTuhi converge to form a platform. The entirely bespoke piece of typography is grounded to the bottom of the majority of applications, reinforcing TeTuhi position of support for contemporary art. Seachange describes the clean nature of the logotype as “an exercise in restraint” that is “intentionally simple in order to not compete with the artworks”.
The platform concept is strengthened throughout the brand system with the use of modular panels. A mixture of bright and subdued colours combine with fluid typography reminiscent of stepping stones to complement, contrast and emphasise artworks of any shape, size and format. The electric red, which acts as TeTuhi’s primary colour alongside a palette of corresponding tones, is a reference to the red ochre used by Manawatere to mark his ‘tuhi’ on the pōhutukawa tree. Keen to avoid the traditionally stark art gallery aesthetic, Seachange’s Amanda Gaskin explains that they “wanted the colours to feel fresh and uplifting for the re-engagement with various audiences”, with TeTuhi being a place for children and casual viewers as well as seasoned connoisseurs.
Since rolling out online, and on stationery, marketing materials, signage and merchandise, the rebrand has “been a huge success for TeTuhi, truly elevating them, communicating their core purpose, and helping them to feel like a space that would be just as at home in Amsterdam as Auckland”.